Woman’s Liberation and the African Freedom Struggle by Thomas Sankara

Thomas Sankara was a revolutionary leader and became the prime minister of Burkina Faso (formerly the Republic of Upper Volta) after a people’s uprising toppled the previous government. This book contains a speech Sankara gave on International Woman’s Day to praise the contribution of women to the revolutionary effort, as well as a profile on Thomas Sankara himself which is a great summary of his ideas and actions! Unlike many world leaders, Sankara understood the importance of women’s emancipation for the nation to thrive. Revolutionary struggle requires courage, determination and constant involvement of all the people to succeed. The way society is set up excludes women from the fruits of their labour, as part of a broader hierarchy that divides us as people rather than working towards a common goal. I love a man who speaks the truth in the face of opposition in the form of other men’s misguided contempt towards women, without this courage from a leader society can never develop healthier attitudes that foster compassion over competition.

Sankara’s speech rings as true now sat here in the UK as it did when it was spoken in 1987 in Burkina Faso. We need one another and the complex nature of the way the world works needs to be challenged robustly. If men are to realise their aspirations, they need to focus on fighting the system causing their anguish rather than mistreating women. This baseless attempt to restore their own dignity will continue to fail the individual as well as wider society. No matter how oppressed man is, there is often a woman he feels he can oppress in some capacity and sadly society still has a place for this exploitation. Disagreeing with oppression is one thing, but Sankara stood up and faced the men who would be most affronted by the idea of women’s liberation, the bravery to do this is what we all need to embody to make the world a better place. The lack of character found in an oppressor is criticised in the speech and attributed to “pitiful and insignificant” men. Being compassionate something we all need to work on and Sankara had a nuanced understanding of the individual behaviours coming from an oppressive ideology in the form of imperialist capitalism, which needs to be challenged for meaningful change to occur. What I particularly like about this book is that it shows great disdain for the way the world operates and there is an immense passion felt in the words, willing the change to occur through encouraging unity and responsibility.

I recently re-read Women, Race and Class and it was fascinating to see how Angela Davis’ rigorous historic analysis matches up with what Sankara attempted to put into practice. They both determined that the future depends on women reaching the freedoms men already have, and then going beyond for the good of everyone! If he hadn’t been killed a few months later I’m sure a lot more dreams would have been realised. Thankfully his words and actions have inspired many others. Thomas Sankara himself said “You cannot kill ideas” and the fact that I’m reading a speech from 1987 suggests this to be the case!

Here’s a low resolution, but high quality documentary about this great man!!

Thomas Sankara — The Upright Man



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Reflective Reading

Reflecting on the books I have read, what they have offered me and opening up discussion